Pablo Escobar and Gabriel García Márquez: these are two of the most famous names that immediately come up in anyone’s mind when thinking about Colombia. This, however, could not be the only thing that associates the two.
When I finished binge-watching Narcos’ second season, I couldn’t help thinking about Chronicle of a Death Foretold, one of Márquez’s most famous short novels. I then looked back at my memories of the two seasons, realising that they are just a singular tale of Pablo Escobar’s rise and fall.
Disney-like stories from our childhood have often taught us that heroes always rise and never fall and eventually they all live happily ever after. Growing up, we get to be more fascinated by anti-heroes: characters whose arcs are more likely to be a rise with a consequent fall. They appear to be more truthful since life is made of highs and lows.
What do Chronicle of a Death Foretold and Pablo Escobar’s Narcos have in common?
First and foremost, in Márquez’s novel, from the very first chapter, as the title explicitly says, we already know pretty much everything.
Who is killed, when, how and, as the story proceeds, we start to get a grasp on the reasons of the death. The rest of the book is skilfully thought in keeping the reader attached to each page.
Narcos’ storytelling is just like Márquez’s masterpiece: from the beginning, being it a historical narration, we are aware of who Pablo Escobar is; we know for sure that he is going to die sooner or later (Narcos season two’s advertising campaign was totally based on the assumption that we already knew that Pablo was going to die in the last episode).
Even when most of the bad guys would have agreed to compromise, Pablo Escobar tries with every means he has to stay attached to that very last piece of power he has left
We did know how the story is going to end, but we still decided we wanted to watch it. Narcos is a spoiler-proof series then, that could prove spoilers aren’t actually bad for us: more than knowing what happens next we want to know how characters in a given story develop and grow – a new study from the University of California confirms that: “Spoilers don’t spoil stories: contrary to popular wisdom, they actually seem to enhance enjoyment.”
Although the two stories do have similarities, in terms of narration style, there’s more to the table when we talk about Narcos. Netflix’s hit has been following the events of Escobar since the first episode, presenting a character on his way to become Colombia’s kingpin. We have followed him through his escalation in the drug market and in the political system of his country. And towards the end of season one we have seen Pablo Escobar’s madness unleashed in a series of repressions of events against the Colombian army, government and the American Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Season two kicks off with the same mood but with a main villain that is drastically aged. White hair appears on the sides of his forehead and the usually carefully shaved beard and moustaches, especially towards the very end, is left shabby. His reign has been compromised and his power is slowly diminishing as the attempts of the Colombian army of defeating him intensify.
The most famous cocaine dealer is a character that doesn’t ever give up. Even when most of the bad guys would have agreed to compromise, Pablo Escobar tries with every means he has to stay attached to that very last piece of power he has left. And even when everything is lost, he turns back with the idea of preparing his comeback.
He isn’t an easy character to understand and even when we could empathise with someone like Breaking Bad’s main character, Walter White – who was moved by a genuine sentiment of care towards his family, at least initially —, it is very hard to do the same with Pablo Escobar. He proved too many times to be unreasonable and only led by a sentiment of revenge and anger.
Netflix’s staple series accompanies great directing choices and superb acting to an already solid plot. The setting of the show, Medellín, finely resembles the 90s feeling of the story and once again the series succeeds in telling such a complex story mixing both fictional and historical footage.
It’s fair to raise some doubts about the series’ success in the long term, now that the main character and source of attraction has been killed. Nonetheless, Narcos season two is yet another statement of high quality, a true to the events and artistically amusing mini-series.